Dr. David Katz, Preventive Medicine Specialist & True Health Initiative President, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on covid-19.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's bring in Dr. David Katz. He is a Preventative Medicine Specialist, also the President of the True Health Initiative. Good to have you here. I want to start with that Moderna news. How quickly do you think it could be before we see, perhaps, teenagers and younger getting the Moderna vaccine?
DAVID KATZ: Yeah, good to be with you. I think it really is more a matter of enthusiasm for vaccine uptake in that population than it is a matter of availability. I think the current administration has done a good job making vaccines available and deploying them. And from what I'm hearing from colleagues and various access points to public health, I'm not finding that a lot of people eager to get the vaccine are having difficulty accessing it.
I think the slowdown is mostly related to the fact that people eager to be vaccinated have been. I'm not sure how most parents are feeling about vaccinating their teens and tweens. And I think that that case needs to be made. I think we'll have particular difficulty in communities that trust public health, trust science a bit less. So I think we need an effective communication, along with the distribution of vaccine.
I can't say. I don't-- if it were a simple matter of logistics, supply chain, do we have the vaccine, can people access it-- it would be a simpler projection. But a lot of this really comes down to attitude, vaccine resistance. So I'm not sure how the average person feels about vaccinating younger people who obviously are at lower risk of severe reactions to the virus.
That said-- and this is a decisive issue for me-- as a physician, as a public health professional, and as a parent of now five grown kids, but I've been in this situation, the vaccine is clearly much safer even for young people than the virus is. So it would be a really good idea to get vaccinated if you are in the newly eligible age group. But I don't know how that message is going to go over.
SEANA SMITH: Dr. Katz, we heard from New York City this week that they will no longer be having remote learning in the fall. Everyone will be going back in-person. To those parents who have kids that will then be returning to school here in the fall, should they feel 100% safe in sending their kids? Should they have, I guess, any hesitation at all?
DAVID KATZ: Seana, good to see you. They cannot feel 100% safe, but that's simply because, Seana, their kids were not 100% safe before the pandemic. I think one of the critical issues here is that the pandemic has invited risk distortion in every direction. So there are many people who've underestimated the threat of the virus, there are many people who have overestimated the threat of the pandemic, and now there's the notion that having experienced risk associated with SARS-CoV-2, we can only go back to the world when the risk of something bad happening to us or anybody we care about is zero.
It was never zero before, right? There's risk in putting your kid on a school bus. So, no, they should not be hesitant. And the risks, essentially, are at that level. They fall below the threshold where they are in the background. I wish the risk to all children of anything bad happening were zero. I do. But that's a perfect world, and we don't live in a perfect world, and miscellaneous bad things happen to people every day in this country of 330 million people.
The risks of COVID affecting kids, given where we are in the pandemic, given the approach to herd immunity, given the level of immunization is extremely low. There should be no hesitancy about sending kids back to school.
ADAM SHAPIRO: But when we see these surges in different parts of the world-- I mean, we got the news out of Japan that the hospital system is just almost at the point of crumbling-- should they cancel the Olympics?
DAVID KATZ: You know, my heart goes out to the athletes, Adam. The Olympics are such a rarefied thing, right-- so essentially, you're training your whole life and aiming to peak at just the right time. From a public health perspective, given what's going on in Japan, given that the latest news there is only about 2% of the population has been immunized, this looks to me like a super-spreader event.
And if vulnerable people who are not immune come from all over the world and take the virus back, we could have outbreaks in many parts of the world again. So it's a bad idea from a public health perspective to have mass congregation in a part of the world where the virus is spreading at a pretty high level and rates of immunity are low. Obviously, it's well above my pay grade to decide whether or not to cancel the Olympics, but again, looking at this through the lens of public health, it's a dangerous situation for sure.